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Alice Childress

A Hero ainít nothiní but a Sandwich

Buchbesprechung von Emanuel Fritz

About the author

Alice Childress was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and grew up and attended school in Harlem. She was a Member of the American Negro Theatre for ten years. From 1966 to 1968, she received a Harvard appointment to the Radcliffe Institute. She was a community-elected board member of the Harlem Writers Guild and the New Dramatists. She has travelled widely in the USSR and Europe and visited mainland China.

Her play Wedding Band was presented during the 1972-73 season by Joseph Pappís Public Theatre, Trouble in Mind received the Obie Award for the best off-Broadway production of 1955-56, and a third play, Wine in the Wilderness, was presented on NET. Many of her plays have been anthologised, and she is the author of a number of stories and articles which have appeared in Freedomways, Essence, and The Black World. She is the editor of The Black Scene, a collection of fifteen scenes from works by Black playwrights.

Of note are her novels, A Hero Ain't Nothing but a Sandwich and Rainbow Jordan (1982). The first woman to win an OBIE Award and the first black woman to have a play produced professionally on Broadway, Childress died on August 14, 1994 of cancer. She was 77 and lived in Manhattan.


  • Florence 1949
  • Just a Little Simple 1950
  • Gold Through the Trees 1952
  • Trouble in Mind 1955
  • Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White 1966
  • String 1969
  • Mojo 1970
  • Sea Island Song 1977
  • Moms: A Praise Play for a Black Comedienne 1986

The plot

Benjie Johnson is thirteen, black and well on his way to being hooked on heroin. Benjie lives with his mother Rose, his stepfather Butler Craig and his grandmother Ransom Bell in a block in a ghetto in New York City.

Benjie hates his stepfather Butler, because he thinks Butler wants to take him away from his mother, which makes him very angry. Butler wants to be a good father, but Benjie doesnít give him a chance. Benjie hates school and he starts smoking pot with his best friend Jimmy-Lee Powel. One day Benjie tries skag and his experience with it is satisfactory, it gives him what he needs. So he begins to take it regularly. To get the expensive stuff he begins to steal money or other things from his parents. He becomes a criminal and Butler leaves Rose and lives with Emma Dudley in the first floor, who falls in love with him, because he doesnít want to see any longer how Benjie is killing himself. One day Benjie steals Emmaís toaster and Butler wants to catch him. He follows him to the roof. Benjie becomes nervous, and he wants to kill himself by jumping from the block. Butler saves him from death and after some time Benjie loves Butler like his own father and stops taking drugs.

My opinion

This book is written in a New York-Slang and itís not very easy to understand everything the first time you read it, but time and again itís very interesting and amazing.

In this story you get a good picture of Blacks and Whites because of the different characters which tell the story from their own point of view. There is a white teacher, Bernhard Cohen, who is always fighting with a black teacher, Nigeria Greene, a black nationalist. In this book you see the real difference between the opinions Blacks and Whites. Benjieís drug problem shows that is it very difficult or sometimes impossible to keep and get your own kid away from drugs when itís on drugs. Benjie lives in the cool-age-generation and he stops when he finds out by himself how drugs can damage your and your familyís life.


Women of Color